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“The Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act” would mandate union monopoly bargaining for state and local public safety employees. (See: and

It would force police, fire, ambulance and corrections employees to create collective bargaining units to cover employees and likely produce higher taxes, higher deficits and higher tensions between public sector employees and the public they serve.

I am immediately cynical of this legislation, because it would appear as though the sponsors are attempting to go through the back door, under a cloak of secrecy and attach it to a spending bill as if it were some kind of parasite, which, it is.

This monstrosity is contained in the “Amendment to the Senate Engrossed Amendment to the Text of HR 4899 – Supplemental War Appropriations Bill”. (See: )

The Public Safety Collective Bargaining provisions are buried on page 88, Chapter 4, “Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act”.

It says:

Public Safety Collective Bargaining: The House amendment guarantees collective bargaining rights for the nation’s first responders employed by States and localities. Under the language, states would administer and enforce their own labor laws, while the Federal Labor Relations Authority would step in only where such laws do not exist or do not meet minimum standards. The language prohibits public safety officers from engaging in a lockout, sickout, work slowdown, strike, or any other organized job action that will disrupt the delivery of emergency services.
In short; we-public safety employees-would no longer have the right to choose union representation or not.

Gone will be “right to work” as we know it.

Right to work laws prohibit the closed and union shop. A right to work law secures the right of the individual to decide whether they want to join and support a union. There are exceptions, such as rail and airline employees.

With open shop rule, an employee cannot be forced to join or pay the equivalent of union dues, nor can they be fired if they join a union. It is the employees’ right to work, regardless of whether they are in a union.

Yes; this means volunteers! Volunteers are “employees”. Therefore; this means you and any career folks who aren’t currently covered under a collective bargaining agreement.

But, how could this God forsaken bill be this close to reality and yet; many in the fire service are completely unaware of its existence? Legislation that could become so expensive as to bankrupt a fire district deserves some serious attention. I am all for transparency but not invisibility. I want our government to deal with the People’s business in the open, during the daylight hours and reject the idea that legislation that stinks will somehow smell better if it is “bundled” correctly.

This bill this time around, since versions of this bill have been around since 2001, was introduced by Michigan Congressman Dale Kildee and New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg. It would appear that the late night meeting with Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and the biggest unions just after November 2nd was an attempt to “thank” the unions for the $53 million that they pumped into the elections this year. You know; no strings attached.

Knowing that a bill unionizing the entire public safety sector wouldn’t even make it out of committee by conventional means, they had to resort to trickery/chicanery in order to get it so close to becoming law.

When I read what was attached to this spending bill for our men and women in the armed services, it made my stomach wretch. THAT is how you move garbage in Washington. You want to get something through government that could never make it out otherwise, then burying it as an amendment towards the end of the bill could almost guarantee passage; if it wasn’t such an old trick.

To be clear…

I am NOT against unions. I was in a union. I have friends in unions. I have been on both sides of the fence. I can take them or leave them.

I AM against anything that takes away my right to choose whether or not I want a union to represent me.

I am against the influence peddling by powerful union lobbies.

I am against unions using membership money for elections and especially from those industries that were bailed out by the American taxpayer.

I am against the scare tactics employed by the unions and though public employees do not have the right to strike, there have been strikes in the past. And just the thought of not having someone to respond if you have an emergency is a very powerful tool.

In my opinion, the reason that there has been a push to unionize the public sector is because the numbers have been shrinking in the private sector. For the first time in our nation’s history, there are more public sector union employees than private sector union employees.

I am not sure what the end game will be, but consider this:

What is the likelihood that a village of one thousand residents will be able to afford this partnership between their fire department and a collective bargaining representative?

If it has already proven to be unsustainable in other communities, then why would we want to expand it?

To summarize, the legislation that is being proposed will:

1) Force YOU to join a union.
2) Overturn the right to work in 26 states.
3) Increase costs with no guarantee of better service.
4) There will be no more flexibility. Everything will be legislated and contained in a contract.
5) Volunteer departments as we know them will cease to be.

Contact your representatives and FIGHT this!

It’s something that, quite literally, we cannot afford.

The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author. They do not reflect the opinions and views of, Fire Engineering Magazine or PennWell Corporation.

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Comment by Brian Arnold on November 19, 2010 at 10:04pm
Chief- The Tea Party comment was an outsiders observations of posted comments.
As to to my personal affiliations you know that I'm not much of a politician and speak my mind with no hidden agendas in mind. I'm a gun toting redneck, that's a registered Republican, who votes a split ticket when it comes election time. I don't care much for politicians or lawyers and believe that a man should be taken for his word and held accountable by such.

The HR are written in legal jargon that makes it difficult to understand and requires much interpretation which makes it immediately suspicious. Thus the job security of lawyers and politicians. I would much rather the world was run by Firefighters as the commercial that used to air showed. Simple and straight forward! All in favor----say I, resolution passed......that's not so tough.

The letter that was recited by our brother to the president of the IAFF could have just as easily been penned by me in many respects. I do not agree with the IAFF or our local on many issues and make my voice heard thru the proper channels just as I do in the firehouse.

But in the end I'm a firefighter. That's all I've ever been for the past 24+ years and all I've ever longed to be. I support our volunteer firefighters across the country as well as our career firefighters. I support any measures, initiatives or HR that will give them more leverage against the politicians who would tear our great profession down one position at a time.

When I'm crowned King of America I promise to right all the wrongs and make sure that all of our nations Firefighters are treated with the respect they deserve. But until that day, I'll just keep fighting the good fight. Agree or disagree, that is what makes us such a great community and country.
Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on November 19, 2010 at 5:53pm
Yes; there may very well have been some confusion and misinterpretation of this bill on my part, but just like the National Healthcare bill, I can't help but feel that we will not know the true extent of the "Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act" for some time.
At least we got to read the bill, even though it was buried in a bill unrelated to public safety.
It is my hope that this practice by our elected officials of attaching this type of bill to completely unrelated legislation will stop, so that a bill can pass based upon its own merits.
Party affiliation should have no bearing on the contents of the legislation.
If it is not done in this fashion, then we will continue to see legislation that becomes law by default.
And that is just plain wrong.
I, too want to trumpet what Bobby said.
This is a great community.
Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on November 19, 2010 at 3:37pm
I received this today from a friend:
Art, I just talked to the 7th District (Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska) V-P for the IAFF. He said the language that describes employees excludes volunteers from the equation, that is the IAFF's official position on the issue. His statement is the official IAFF stand, "the intent of the bill is to obtain the ability to sit at the table and discuss the wages, hours and conditions of work for the fire departments (fully paid FF's) that do not have that right at the present time". He said with the victory of the Republican write in candidate over the TEA Party candidate in Alaska the bill should be able to pass this year. Congresswoman Murkowski's victory was aided by the Alaska FF State organization and all the local unions in Alaska, she is a supporter of FF issues. There are enough Republican congress members that support this effort and support firefighters that combined with the Democrats it should pass the house, it has already passed the Senate and President Obama has said he will sign it. That is my update.
Sounds like a done deal.
Stay tuned.
Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on November 18, 2010 at 3:32pm
Thank you for your very thoughtful reply.
When I post something, this is the kind of effort that I like to see that brings quality to the discussion.
You did that.
My politics are simple: I am a Reagan Republican. I did not attend any Tea Party gatherings.
In the last election, I voted for ONE Democrat for sheriff, because of his conservative values.
I thought that I was clear on the message, which I thought was: don't take away our right to choose.
Great reply except for that Tea Party thing!
Comment by Brian Arnold on November 18, 2010 at 2:28pm
Art- I understand your reasoning with your motorcycle helmet analogy but would take it even one step further. If you crash and have a TBI for the rest of your life and are on my insurance plan or uninsured; I shouldn't have to bear the burden of paying your medical bills. I too, do not like being told what I can and can't do but understand the logic and economics of the purpose behind the law. Sometimes choice comes at a price that inconveniences some while protecting others. But that's another subject for a political forum.

I sent copies of the HR's to a couple of lawyer buddies of mine as well as our comments here on the site and asked for their opinions on wording. I'm not fluent in legaleeze but they were helpful in reminding me that when it contains words such as "shall" it's the same as an order of "you will" and when it says "should" it becomes a recommendation. One is a staunch Republican while the other is a Democrat, both are friends and cut through the political BS for me. Here's a summary of what they had to say about your opinions:

This resolution doesn't Force anyone to join a labor organization, it merely allows for the formation of one if the majority of employees choose to do so. Open or closed shop issues with individual states will remain in tact until changed at the local level, but States will not be able to Ban a union from organizing and being recognized as the bargaining agent. It will not overturn a single Right to Work State unless voted upon by the individuals of the State. If the HR passes, States will have to recognize the individual bargaining agencies rights when it comes to hours, wages, terms of employment etc.

Contracts that are currently agreed upon will still remain in tact regardless of this HR and any increase or decrease in costs to municipalities, townships, etc. will be a negotiated item as they are now.

Volunteer firefighters would have the right to unionize if they so choose. If they sought to be recognized as an organized labor unit they would be subject to State laws concerning their responsibilities. This would NOT put an end to volunteer fire departments but in their opinion would cause the formation of a few more career or paid on call type departments that were disgruntled with municipal administrations.

It was noted by you and both of my buddies that this legislation has been around for quite some time and will most certainly go through even more changes before it can go for a vote or IF it will ever pass. If you go to the very end and see the billions of dollars going to all the different agencies in this bill it will probably piss you off even more. Neither were For or Against the overall HR, but my Rep. buddy says he's against any legislation that allows for more unions and if he were a Senator would have to oppose it based on his political affiliation. (Long story, but he's still my friend and it leads to spirited debates)

The most accurate part of any of your statements (other than the quotes from the bill) is that this is your interpretations and opinions of the HR's. I believe you are entitled to those and look forward to discussing issues like this, but you have not convinced me by laying out FACTS of the issue; you've only presented conjecture and speculation.

Lastly, while I don't know you personally I have read many of your articles and blogs. Some I agree with and some I don't. Emotion, passion and inflection on a subject is difficult to interpret in emails and blogs. But even my two outside counselors commented on how far it appears you swayed towards one side of the political spectrum (one asked if you were a Tea Party leader). While I don't know if this is accurate or not, perception is noted by all those that read this and should be kept in mind. Many impressionable firefighters will take your opening remarks as gospel and not do the due diligence research to find the facts out for themselves.

Thank you for taking the time to bring this subject matter to light and I hope that you will continue discussing this and other issues based on both Opinions and Facts.
Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on November 17, 2010 at 10:19pm
Here; maybe this will help you to understand my logic.
The NTSB came out as wanting to REQUIRE motorcyclists to wear helmets in all 50 states.
When my lovely wife and I hit the open road on my hog, we wear helmets. Illinois is a state that doesn't require them.
I am opposed to any law requiring them, because I believe that it should be the right of the riders to CHOOSE whether or not to wear them. A helmet is NOT a motorcycle's "seat belt". Motorcyclists have been fatally injured when not wearing them AND when wearing them. Many fatal accidents have occurred when struck by other vehicles.
So; because I believe that motorcyclists should have the right to choose whether or not to wear helmets, does that make me "anti-helmet"?
No; it means that I believe that riders should have the choice.
Same logic here.
Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on November 17, 2010 at 9:15pm
(Force YOU to join a union).

From H.R. 413: …Granting public safety officers the right to form and join a labor organization, which may exclude management and supervisory employees, that is or seeks to be, recognized as the exclusive bargaining representative of such employee.
…Requiring public safety employers to recognize the employees’ labor organization (freely chosen by a majority of the employees), to agree to bargain with the labor organization, and to commit any agreements to writing in a contract or memorandum of understanding.
…Providing for bargaining over hours, wages, and terms and conditions of employment.

What I read is that, if the majority of employees freely choose to organize and you didn’t, you have just been forced to join or you take another job.

(Overturn the right to work in 26 states).

From H.R. 413: …Not more than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, The Authority (Federal Labor Relations Authority) shall make a determination as to whether a State substantially provides for the rights and responsibilities described in subsection (b). In making such determinations, the Authority shall consider the opinion of affected employers and labor organizations. Where the authority is notified by an employer and an affected labor organization that both parties agree that the law applicable to such employer and labor organization substantially provides for the rights and responsibilities described in subsection (b), the Authority shall give such agreement weight to the maximum extent practicable in making its determination under this subsection.

What I read is that, if the state’s laws that govern the right of employees to organize and an employer’s right to oppose it, then the Federal Labor Relations Authority will exercise its authority and force the employer to accept conditions of subsection (b), making it easier for employees to organize.

(Increase costs with no guarantee of better service).

From H.R. 413: …Requiring public safety employers to recognize the employees’ labor organization (freely chosen by a majority of the employees), to agree to bargain with the labor organization, and to commit any agreements to writing in a contract or memorandum of understanding.
…Providing for bargaining over hours, wages, and terms and conditions of employment.

Clearly, in a city where they have not had a career department with salaries and benefits added into the city budget, costs will rise and it may or may not improve service.

(There will be no more flexibility. Everything will be legislated and contained in a contract).

From H.R. 413: ...Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Authority shall issue regulations establishing procedures which provide the rights and responsibilities described in section 4(b) for public safety employers and officers in States which the Authority has determined, acting pursuant to its authority under section 4(a), do not substantially provide for such rights and responsibilities.
…Roe of the Federal Labor Relations Authority. – The Authority, to the extent provided in this Act and in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Authority, shall –
…determine the appropriateness of units for labor organization representation…
…supervise and conduct elections to determine whether a labor organization has been selected as an exclusive representative by a voting majority of the employees in an appropriate unit…
…resolve issues relating to the duty to bargain in good faith…
…conduct hearings and resolve complaints of unfair labor practices…
…resolve exceptions to the awards of arbitrators…
…protect the right of each employee to form, join, or assist any labor organization, or to refrain from any such activity, freely and without fear of penalty or reprisal, and protect each employee in the exercise of such right…
…if the Authority finds that any State is not in compliance with the regulations prescribed under subsection (a), direct compliance by such State by order…and
…take such other actions as are necessary and appropriate to effectively administer this Act, including issuing subpoenas requiring the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of documentary or other evidence from any place in the United States, and administering oath, taking or ordering the taking of depositions, ordering responses to written interrogatories, and receiving and examining witnesses.

This speaks for itself. This is the process that will be followed whenever there is a dispute. It is not flexible and it is legislation. Therefore, there will be no more flexibility because decisions of the judges will be final, so to speak.

(Volunteer departments as we know them will cease to be).

…State and local public safety officers play an essential role in the efforts of the United States to detect, prevent, and respond to terrorist attacks, and to respond to natural disasters, hazardous materials, and other mass casualty incidents. As the first to arrive on scene, State and local public safety officers must be prepared to protect life and property and to preserve scarce and vital Federal resources, avoid substantial and debilitating interference with interstate and foreign commerce, and to protect the national security of the United States. Public safety employer-employee cooperation is essential in meeting these needs and is, therefore, in the National interest…
…The health and safety of the Nation and the best interests of public safety employers and employees may be furthered by the settlement of issues through the processes of collective bargaining.

In my opinion, this is the “foot-in-the-door” for the eventual inclusion of other than career fire departments under this legislation. Think about NIMS and FIRE Act. This all came about after 9/11 and essentially put every fire department in this nation under the direct control of the Department of Homeland Security. We want to believe that, since it isn’t explicitly stated that this legislation excludes volunteers, that it does not apply to volunteers and especially since it states in the documents that fire departments in cities of less than 5000 population with less than 25 full time departments are exempt.
That might be the case NOW, but I see nothing more than just a little bit of language in the population of a city and change “full-time” to “any and all”.

Yes; my blog is usually my opinion, but if you can go back to any of the more than 200 articles that I have had published and the thousands of comments that I have made on the fire website discussion boards and show me ONE comment to indicate that I am anti-union, then I will eat all of the union membership cards that I received from UAW Local 865 in East Moline and my union steward pins, I will have for dessert.
I also worked for a company that made furnaces and the work force was union. I was in management and had no problems. No grievances were ever filed against me and many of the employees are my friends today.
I currently work for a company that provides services to a company that employs union workers.
I’m still standing.
So, think what you will.
Just like me; everyone of you are entitled to your opinion.
Comment by john s cinque on November 17, 2010 at 7:46pm
alright guys
this is the problem
the unions at the top levels have been corrupted by the national socialist democrats
and yes i said SOCIALIST
google richard trumpka president os the afl-cio
the IAFF is a part of that so he speaks for the members
i for one will never fall in line and support anythign or anyone that has socialist ties
WAKE UP and look around
Comment by Brian Arnold on November 17, 2010 at 5:39pm
Art- I've read through both lengthy documents and can't find where any of your claims are substanstiated. Could you please list the line items which you refer to the follow statements:
1) Force YOU to join a union.
2) Overturn the right to work in 26 states.
3) Increase costs with no guarantee of better service.
4) There will be no more flexibility. Everything will be legislated and contained in a contract.
5) Volunteer departments as we know them will cease to be.

What I do see is a lenghty editorial on your part that is engrossed with your opinions. Some of which I agree with and some I do not. I generally operate on facts versus conjecture and opinions; and am having difficulty in seeing anything but an "anti union, anti democrat" blog on your part.

Please help me understand where you have gathered your concrete evidence that "this will happen". Facts from either one of these proposed bills. I too have read the IAFF site and links and still cannot "reason" through your argument yet. I have to tend agree with Brick that this smacks more of a political rant of career vs volunteer and union vs non union. I have been fortunate to serve as a volunteer (non union) firefighter and a career (union) firefighting member in a "right to work" state and cannot see the damage you say will be created by this bill.

Facts please!
Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on November 17, 2010 at 3:32pm

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